Plagiarism Software Is Not the Complete Answer

A few months ago I came across an article in one respectable online magazine (don’t remember the author). The main idea of the article – teachers don’t really need plagiarism checkers because mechanical check has never been able replace a human. I can’t but agree with this thesis, but doesn’t your life become easier with a plagiarism checker?

Public school teachers face a daunting task teaching in the classroom with the pressures from No Child Left Behind and Common Core requirements demanding a lot of their teaching time be taken up with required-by-law curriculum. Teachers must prepare their students for mandatory tests they must pass along with the job of trying to give the students common knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and eventually in the workplace. And because of these contradictory requirements being placed on their classroom and preparatory time, teachers find themselves looking for time-saving shortcuts. One shortcut many teachers are turning to for grading essay papers is a tool being used by many of their peers at the college level – plagiarism software.

With budgets becoming tighter for public and private schools, the pressure is increased for a product to deliver more than is advertised. Plagiarism checker like unplag receives mixed reviews from education professionals because of this added expectation of over-delivery.

Criticism Cause

The root cause for the criticism stems from teachers expecting a “one size fits all” type of solution for their various classroom issues. Some teachers are expecting the software to detect and correct improper grammar. Others are expecting the software to grade the essay and evaluate if the student has properly covered the assigned topic. Still other teachers want the software to check for spelling. The problem is the software only is designed to detect plagiarism – if the student copied another person’s work without proper citing.

College professors also have similar complaints about plagiarism checkers. Many universities are utilizing the software to combat the surge of cheating taking place in academia and to preserve their school’s reputation. They make the software available to their various teachers since many of the school’s classrooms are too large – a hundred or more students in each class – making it virtually impossible for the professor to grade each student’s work. Once again, the teachers are expecting the software to properly check each paper for grammar, spelling, etc. – requirements the program was not developed to catch.z

Grading Dilemma

Another dilemma many instructors find themselves in is where to focus the small amount of time they do have when grading a student’s academic work – “do I focus on checking for plagiarism or do I spend the time teaching proper research and writing skills?”

What really is not being said is the reason higher education is becoming more critical and vocal about the supposed shortcomings of the plagiarism software – students are not prepared for the college-level writing requirements. As one retired high school teacher pointed out, too much time is spent preparing students for required tests than teaching abstract thought processes and proper writing techniques in the classroom. The teacher states in the article that students are leaving high school ill-equipped for the demands of college classes. For this reason, some universities now offer new students remedial classes in English, math, and other core classes. But as many professors are learning – one class falls short from years of teaching for required tests – it leaves the student left behind when he or she walks into their first college classroom.

Do Teachers Really Need Plagiarism Checkers?

With that said, yes, plagiarism software is a good tool for a teacher to have at their disposal, but they should not expect the software to grade an essay like a professional educator – instructor robots are still a few years from being a reality. Until then teachers need to realize a little extra time will be needed instructing their students on proper writing and research requirements. Realize the students probably need extra coaching on proper grammar, sentence structure and even a few spelling tips. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to stock up on red ink pens as long as classroom time is divided between government laws and the classroom subject’s syllabus.

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